Formerly home to the city’s red-light district, Poblacion – with its trendy bars, innovative art spaces and a blossoming restaurant scene – has gradually evolved into one of Manila’s most buzzing neighbourhoods. Today you’ll find an ever-changing, constantly growing clutch of the city’s hippest venues opening up in the area, where they continue to live in glorious – if sometimes surreal – harmony with remnants of the past.
Writer and food critic
As a respected Filipino food critic and a resident of Rockwell Center, a high-end development in Poblacion, Clinton Palanca appreciates living in an area with a thriving culinary scene. Though Rockwell has always had its fair share of hip cafés and fine-dining places, it’s only recently that the other, older side of Poblacion has witnessed a culinary boom, heralded by the small establishments “[emerging in] what used to be a slightly seedy area,” Palanca says.
One of these is Tilde Hand Craft Café. “Tilde represents the old-world Poblacion that has been gentrified,” he says. “It’s bohemian, with lots of creatives popping in and out. It makes its own beer and [does] a naturally fermented sourdough bread.”
Over in Rockwell is Wildflour Café + Bakery, another standout for fresh bakes and top-notch coffee. In contrast to Tilde, “Wildflour is upscale and a bit pricey, but worth it for its American-style breakfasts and great espresso,” Palanca says. “I love that I have access to both.”
Palanca also singles out fine-dining restaurant Chef Jessie, as well as Grace Park – an eatery helmed by Margarita Forés – as must-visits.
“There were a lot of plucky restaurants that set up shop to cater to the Rockwell area when it was first developed,” he reveals. “The ones who persevered have become the anchors of the dining scene.”